Hero, brave, strong, courageous, those were words that were rightfully used to describe the harrowing testimony of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. During this testimony that was watched by the nation Dr. Ford was forced to reveal some of her most vulnerable sides. With her voice shaking, as she fought back tears, she answered some of the most difficult questions a person can answer. People did not find Dr. Ford’s testimony to be brave because she showed no fear, quite the opposite, she admitted in her opening statement that she was “terrified” yet she spoke anyway.
My self like many other people across the country was fighting back tears as Dr. Ford spoke. As someone who struggles with anxiety, as she disclosed to experiencing, I was hypersensitive to every time her voice shook. Dr. Ford has admitted to struggling with symptoms of anxiety, panic attacks and PTSD symptoms in the 36 years since her assault. She has admitted that this has caused relationship difficulties for her, and academic difficulties in the years following her assault.
What made Dr. Ford’s testimony so powerful was the vulnerabilities she showed. She admitted to “crying a lot” during her polygraph test. She admitted that she’s terrified of flying, but still traveled by air for this testimony, as she does for many other vacations. She showed great knowledge about her anxiety. Stating that while she believes her assault was a large contributing factor to her symptoms of anxiety, she also does not rule out a biological disposition. Educating the nation that mental illness symptoms are not black and white.
Dr. Ford is an example of someone who lives with anxiety who can still be extremely successful people. I have experienced symptoms of anxiety for as long as I can remember. While there are some events in my life that I believe her worsened by anxiety, I truly believe I was born with an anxious mind. Living with anxiety myself I can personally attest to how unbearable living with anxiety is. I have had countless nights where I have struggled to fall asleep due to my racing thoughts. There have been times I have sat at my desk feeling like I am unable to breathe. So often I felt like I’m weak for being so fearful of the ordinary life.
Seeing someone openly admit to experiencing anxiety, yet clearly being brilliant was the most empowering thing I have ever experienced. When she was able to break down the neurobiology of how trauma has impacted her all these years later. Dr. Ford reminded us all that living with anxiety still do things that terrify them. Dr. Ford is living proof that people who have experienced anxiety are incredibly strong, and I thank her for giving me that empowerment.
“I tried to convince myself that because Brett did not rape me, I should be able to move on and pretend that it had never happened”. -Dr. Christine Blasey Ford
That line struck me in a way I had not prepared myself. Dr. Ford epitomized the aftermath of my own sexual assault. In the summer between my junior and senior year of college I was working a movie theatre, instead of going home with my parents like I had most summers, I was staying in an apartment near school and working full-time. My duties at the movie theatre were to clean out the theatres in time for the next movie. Depending on the way the movies were spaced out, a night can either be extremely hectic or have long gaps. Sometimes I would be killing time until the next movie let out. What myself and a lot of other co-workers would do was watch another movie while waiting for the theatre we had to clean to wrap up. This was a practice that managers knew about, and never seemed to care unless we neglected our duties, which I never did.
The night of my assault, there was a co-worker who was flirting with me. I thought he was cute, and I was flattered by the attention. During high school I was brutally bullied and constantly called “ugly” this made attention by the opposite sex unfathomable to me, the high school bullies made it difficult for me to comprehend that anyone could find me attractive. Towards the end of the night, when there were not many obligations left for work he asked me if I wanted to watch a movie with him. We walked the theatre and he said “I like you a lot Laura, I think you are really cool”. The he proceeded to put his hand under my shirt and bra and massage my breast. Inside my mind was yelling “I DON’T WANT THIS!” Yet I sat there frozen, the best way to describe what I was experience was watching it happen to me. I did not feel connected to my own body. Feeling him touch me under my work shirt felt so disgusting. We walked out of the theatre, he grabbed my ass on the way out.
I was shaking uncontrollably, I ran into two other co-workers who I was friendly with. They had been joking around together and tried to engage me in whatever their inside joke was. I was unable to talk, I was just shaking. I have absolutely no recollection of what I said, but somehow, I blurted out what had happened to them. They instantly got a manager, which was not something I had wanted. I made a statement and called my roommate to come meet me at work because I felt way to shaken up to take the subway home on my own.
The following day I was told I would be suspended while an investigation took place. A week later I was in and told that I was fired, that the investigation had found a breach of protocol. Without asking any questions I signed the dismissal paper and got out as quickly as possible. I barely made it down the street until I squeezed my body into the corner between too buildings and began to sob. I was to visible to the public even though I tried to hide myself. I felt so ashamed, should I not have gone into the theatre with him during work hours? Had they thought I wanted it? Why didn’t I tell him to stop? The weeks after this incident I had a difficult time sleeping, I felt his hands on my breasts as I tried to fall asleep. The black polka-dotted bra that I had worn that night used to be one of my favorite pieces of lingerie, yet I could no longer bring myself to wear it.
I had always been the type of person who followed rules, I had been terrified of getting detention in elementary school. I agonized of everything that I had done wrong this to happen to me. Being fired felt like justification that what had happened to me was my fault.
Like Dr. Ford, I told myself that because I wasn’t raped what happened to me wasn’t significant. Even seven years later as I type this I have to resist the urge to type that what happened to me wasn’t “that big of a deal”. The first few months were extremely difficult, and as time passed I pushed it down, because I was so embarrassed and terrified of being judged. I can say very certainly the remnants of that incident have appeared in every single sexual experience I have had since then.
My memories of this incident have been stronger in the days following Dr. Ford’s testimony. While I could never rise to quite her level of courage, she has emboldened me a little. She has reminded me to realize the I will need more years of therapy, to process the impact that this has had on my life and allow myself to forgive myself for it.